Updated on April 23, 2024
14 min read

Inpatient Drug Rehab: What It Is and How It Works

Key Takeaways

We know that recovering from addiction can be a harrowing journey, one where you feel you may not be able to overcome it alone. If you’re struggling with substance abuse and are looking for your best bet to get clean, inpatient rehabilitation may be the best option for you.

Inpatient rehab is a type of intensive treatment for substance addiction. In this setting, you live at the facility for your treatment and receive 24-hour services in a highly structured environment. These services include medication management, recovery skills, and relapse prevention.1

Inpatient rehab can be a lifeline and can spell the difference between getting back on track and a relapse. If you feel you need more around-the-clock support and structure, don’t feel ashamed. Checking into a rehabilitation facility may be the best way to take care of yourself and get back on your feet.

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How Do Inpatient Programs Work?

The goal of inpatient treatment is to complete recovery and help you get back on your feet while minimizing the chances of relapse. Inpatient rehabilitation is supposed to help you detox and then equip you with what you need so you don’t fall back into dangerous habits.

This can include intensive therapy to help you become more mentally and emotionally resilient or even to address any co-morbidities or mental illnesses that may have made you more vulnerable to addiction in the first place.

You’ll also learn skills to help you cope and find healthy outlets for stress. Expect a holistic experience so you can get better as soon as possible.

Throughout treatment, you’ll experience the following:

  • An intensive daily schedule for therapies and activities
  • 24-hour medical supervision
  • Professional clinical staff, doctors, and counselors
  • Time for relaxation and reflection
  • Learning skills for recovery, sobriety, and relapse prevention
  • Assistance in managing withdrawal symptoms

You live at the facility during treatment to avoid things that might lead to drug use, keeping minimal contact with the outside world. You can only bring a small bag, and most places don't allow cell phones.

What to Expect During Inpatient Rehab

Here are some things to expect when you enter inpatient treatment:

1. Medical Screening

This usually happens on the first day and takes a few hours. Screening includes an interview so the medical staff can craft your treatment plan.5 It’s important to be as honest as possible during your screening so the staff can tailor a plan best suited to you and your recovery.

Don’t be embarrassed about your use. The staff is well-trained and will take care of you, so make sure you’re able to give yourself the best fighting chance at recovery by giving them what they ask for.

2. Detoxification

During detoxification (detox), the body removes drugs or any toxic substances from your system. You’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms during this stage as you’re either taking much smaller doses of the drug or none at all.

Your body has become used to drugs, so it must adjust to their absence. Withdrawal symptoms often include nausea, hallucinations, and seizures. The staff and doctors will help you get through detox safely and comfortably so you can minimize your worries about potentially relapsing.

In some cases of withdrawal management, medical professionals prescribe medications and supplements, including:4, 6, 7, 8

  • Naltrexone, methadone, buprenorphine, lofexidine, and clonidine (for opioids)
  • Diazepam (for benzodiazepine, meth, and cocaine)
  • B vitamins and vitamin C

Medication-assisted detox is especially helpful for anyone recovering from substances that cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, like opioids and alcohol.

Remember that needing medication assistance isn’t a sign of weakness. The medication administered to you is to help you recover quicker and safer so you don’t have to worry about painful withdrawal or more jeopardizing opportunities for relapse.

3. Structured Rehab Care

After detox, you move to structured rehab care. This stage is less intense but still has a structured routine.4, 6, 9

You can expect a little control over your schedule upon entering inpatient rehab. Although some may find this rigid routine challenging, it helps you maintain focus and stay on track. It’s also tailored to you and your recovery journey, put together by experts who have dealt with addiction recovery in the past.

Your daily routine in this stage typically includes:

  • Therapy
  • Counseling
  • Medical treatments
  • Mindfulness
  • Stress management
  • Educational workshops
  • Recreational activities
  • Life skills training

While it may not seem like everything in your scheduled daily activities may be directly helpful or even related to your recovery, they will be helpful in the long run. Staying informed about why addiction happens, learning how to manage your stress, and even learning life skills like financial management can keep you from seeking harmful substances out again.

Be patient with your regiment and allow yourself to be open to how it will change your habits.

4. After Inpatient Addiction Treatment

You’ll proceed to outpatient treatment after you leave inpatient rehab. You can attend support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), or others. You can also continue meeting with a counselor.5

Post-inpatient treatment is recommended by the staff at your facility. If they feel like you’re ready, they will start to transition you into outpatient status. However, if you feel you still need some more monitoring and the facilities of inpatient rehab, talk to the people in charge of your facility. They may allow you to continue.

How Long is Inpatient Rehab?

The duration of inpatient rehab depends on several factors, like the severity of the addiction, any comorbidities, history of abuse or addiciton, and your own personal progress.

Some short-term programs typically last five to seven days for detox only. This can easily extend to up to 30 days for more comprehensive treatment.

Longer-term programs can last anywhere from 60 to 90 days. Sometimes, if the addiction is severe and progress isn’t as fast as expected, people can extend their stay to six months or even a year. It all depends on the factors mentioned above and your response to treatment.

Where Can You Receive Inpatient Rehab Treatment?

Two distinct settings can provide inpatient rehab:

  • Acute Care Facility or Hospital Section: This setting is suitable for severe cases of addiction where immediate medical attention and care are necessary.
  • Residential Care: This more relaxed setting provides accommodation and basic nursing support. However, it doesn’t cater to severe medical problems, which occur in 5% of withdrawal cases.
  • State-Operated Addiction Treatment Centers (ATCs): Certain states have specialized care facilities that cater specifically to addiction.

If you’re unsure where to start looking for inpatient rehab treatment, you can probably ask your doctor to point you in the right direction. They may know a program that will fit your needs and budget so you can start your recovery process.

What are the Types of Inpatient Treatment Programs?

Different types of residential treatments exist, including:4,6

  • Therapeutic communities (TC): People live at the facility for several months (at least half a year). Residents and staff work together to change your habits, make you more mindful, and equip you with what you need to stay off harmful substances. Residents follow a highly structured schedule of counseling, chores, exercise, and other activities.10 
  • Short-term residential treatment: This is brief but involves a more intensive program. It comprises three to six weeks of hospital-based therapy and a modified 12-step program.9
  • Recovery housing: This involves supervised, short-term housing that follows other residential treatments. It aims to help you transition to living independently and healthily so you don’t feel you need to turn to harmful substances. The staff teaches you life skills like money management and getting a job so you can have more structure, meaning, and engagement in your life.

What Amenities are Offered in Rehab Facilities?

Rehab facilities differ in their amenities. While some provide basic comforts, such as shared rooms and cafeteria-style meals, others might offer luxury services.

In any rehab facility, you can expect:

  • Shared or private rooms, depending on the facility
  • Prepared meals
  • Basic exercise equipment or recreational activity equipment
  • Rooms for therapy, group meetings, or one-on-one sessions
  • Outdoor areas for recreational activities
  • Reading or quiet areas

More luxury services can include:

  • Private suites
  • Gourmet meals
  • Exclusive amenities like private pools or tennis courts

Remember that you don’t need anything too fancy for addiction recovery, especially if you can’t afford it. You just need to stick to your schedule, communicate openly with the staff, and actively participate in activities.

Is Inpatient Rehab For You?

It depends. No single alcohol or drug addiction treatment plan works for everyone.

While one option may work for one person, it may not work for you. However, it’s still a good idea to consider the option, as it’s the most controlled environment you can get when trying to recover from addiction.

Inpatient treatment may work if you:2,3

  • Have a severe level of addiction
  • Are addicted to multiple drugs
  • Have co-occurring depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions
  • Are at high risk of withdrawal
  • Have relapsed before
  • Have no healthy or supportive home environment or relationships for recovery
  • Have tried less intensive treatment but failed to achieve abstinence 
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How Much Does Inpatient Treatment Cost?

A 30-day stay at a residential treatment center costs around $6,000, but prices can be more expensive for more well-known facilities. Some centers charge up to $20,000 for a month-long stay.

The cost for 60-or 90-day programs is $12,000 to $80,000. For high-profile people or celebrities seeking anonymity, centers often charge as much as $120,000.

Inpatient addiction treatment costs vary greatly, and facilities with high reputations can be pricey. The time you spend at a treatment center also affects the price.

Additionally, consider that you’re paying for staff, which is a full team consisting of doctors, addiction experts, counselors, social workers, and clinicians who are all equipped to handle addiction. Treatment intensity can vary depending on your needs and the facility's approach, so cost can vary as well.

What Factors Affect the High Cost of Addiction Treatment?

Inpatient treatment is more expensive than any outpatient treatment. Various factors influence the cost, including:

  • Facility location
  • Amenities
  • Treatment duration

Some inpatient drug rehab centers accept insurance. Check with your insurance provider about inpatient rehab coverage.

Other options include Medicaid, Medicare, private financing, and state-funded rehab for those without insurance.

Inpatient rehab is expensive because you’re staying at the facility and you’re being attended to closely the entire time. It’s not like you’re able to go home and only have to pay for the treatment when you’re at the facility and the gas it takes to get there. There is round-the-clock assistance for you, which does bring up the cost.

Does Insurance Cover Inpatient Treatment?

Yes, SUD and AUD are medical diseases accredited health insurance providers that must be covered in the U.S. Depending on the policies and state specifics, many insurance companies cover at least a portion or pay the entirety of the rehab costs.

Many inpatient care facilities also offer financing options so you can pay for their services over time rather than all at once. The types of insurance people often to attend inpatient rehab are:

  • State-financed insurance
  • Medicare or Medicaid
  • Private insurance 
  • Military insurance

Figuring out your insurance options can give you better chances of more holistic care at a lowered price. Rehab can be expensive, so finding something to offset that cost can help a ton in the long run.

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What Are Alternatives to Inpatient Treatment?

You may consider intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) or partial hospitalization if inpatient treatment doesn’t work for you, is restrictive, or is too expensive.

  • Intensive outpatient programs: Involve nine to 19 hours of weekly treatment sessions. You can do these during the day, evening, or weekend.
  • Partial hospitalization programs: Include at least 20 hours of weekly sessions. They are best for people with unstable medical and psychiatric conditions.

These services are one step below inpatient treatment in the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) levels of care. They’re more intensive than outpatient treatment but provide comparable effectiveness to inpatient programs.

Some people may opt for these because they’re not as expensive, the facilities are over capacity, or their addiction is a little more manageable. Still, you need to take care of yourself, no matter the rehabilitation treatment option.

Difference Between Inpatient and Residential Care

Inpatient treatment and residential care are similar but have some key differences. People live, eat, and sleep in residential treatment, but onsite medical care is less comprehensive than inpatient rehab.

To attend residential or inpatient treatment, you must check yourself into a facility full-time. You then become a full-time treatment center resident.

Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment requires people to live full-time in the facility for 24/7 medical supervision. On the other hand, outpatient treatment programs don't.

In outpatient treatment, you can keep attending school, working, or seeing friends while getting treatment. Signing up for outpatient treatment may be ideal if you struggle with less severe addiction or substance abuse. You can also use it as an aftercare plan after inpatient treatment.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient treatment provides the following benefits:

  • Medical and nutritional support: Medical professionals ensure people are safe and comfortable during detox and addiction treatment. Nutrition specialists help people with special dietary needs.
  • Structured setting: The organized environment helps people focus on recovery. There are no triggers or negative influences to encourage drug use. 
  • Sense of community: Support groups facilitate relationships among people with similar experiences. They help and encourage each other to change negative behaviors.
  • Aftercare: Medical professionals provide the necessary tools and support for you to live a healthy life after leaving inpatient rehab.

The disadvantages of inpatient treatment include:

  • Inpatient rehab is more expensive than outpatient addiction treatment
  • People aren’t able to tend to any responsibilities during their stay
  • Leaving the inpatient facility can shock their system and lead to relapses
  • Some people are resistant to inpatient treatment because of the stigma

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How to Find the Right Rehab Program

Call your insurance provider to help you find an inpatient treatment center. You can also check the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) directories. 

When checking out inpatient treatment centers, ask the following questions: 

  • What types of drug addictions does the program treat?  
  • What medication-assisted treatment does the program offer for withdrawal? 
  • What peer group programs does the program offer?
  • Does the facility provide treatment for co-occurring disorders?
  • Does the facility have aftercare and sober living options?
  • What qualifications do the staff and health professionals have? 
  • Is the rehab facility licensed and accredited? 
  • How much does inpatient addiction treatment cost? 
  • What are the payment options (insurance and non-insurance)? 
  • What are the facility’s expectations regarding their residents (like phone use, personal belongings, and family visits)?

What Factors Lead to Inpatient or Outpatient Recommendations?

Based on the evaluation, the evaluator will likely recommend inpatient rehab if you:

  • Struggle with severe addiction and co-occurring conditions
  • Lack social support
  • Face unstable housing
  • Have no transportation access

However, if they don’t meet inpatient treatment criteria, the evaluator may suggest outpatient treatment.1,4

What Is The Hardest Part Of Rehab?

Besides taking medication and dealing with substance use withdrawal, there are other major hurdles to overcome.

Here are some of the hardest things you’ll have to face while in rehab:

  • Dealing with withdrawal: The most challenging part of rehab is dealing with withdrawal's emotional and physical side effects. It can be difficult to endure but necessary for successful recovery.
  • Adjusting to life in rehab: You may also find adjusting to life away from home and loved ones challenging. It can be a significant source of anxiety and fear during inpatient treatment.
  • Changes in routines: Disruption to your usual routine may be difficult. The schedule of regular activities, check-ins, and sessions can be overwhelming at first.

As you progress through inpatient treatment and practice coping skills for addiction recovery, these struggles become easier to manage.

These difficulties are no laughing matter. Even if it takes you a while to adjust, remember to take your time and that there’s nothing wrong with adapting to the new environment. It’s natural to struggle at first, but be open to what’s going on so you can have the best chances for recovery.

How Do Specialists Determine the Best Treatment Option for You?

Doctors or addiction specialists can help you choose the best addiction treatment through an evaluation. They may ask about:2,3

  • History of drug use, treatment, and relapse
  • Co-occurring medical or mental health conditions
  • Financial, living, and personal situations
  • Outlook and attitude (like motivation to change)
  • Available support from family and friends

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Updated on April 23, 2024
11 sources cited
Updated on April 23, 2024
  1. Overview of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Care Clinical Guidelines: A Resource for States Developing SUD Delivery System Reforms.” Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program, 2017. 
  2. Treatment Settings.” National Alliance on Mental Illness.
  3. Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report: Introduction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021.
  4. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018. 
  5. Inpatient vs. Outpatient: Comparing Two Types of Patient Care.” Saint George’s University School of Medicine, 2021.
  6. Treatment.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  7. Martin, K. “ Detoxification: the evidence on setting and intervention.” Health Research Board, 2012.
  8. Substance withdrawal management” Government of South Australia.
  9. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014.
  10. Kowalchuk et al. “Therapeutic Community.” Science Direct, 2012.
  11. Find Treatment.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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